Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Chattampi Swamikal (1853–1924) was a Hindu sage and social reformer. Swamikal along with his contemporary Narayana Guru, strived to reform the heavily ritualistic and caste-ridden Hindu society of the late 19th century Kerala.
Chattampi Swamikal denounced the orthodox interpretation of Hindu texts citing sources from the Vedas. Swamikal also worked for the emancipation of women and encouraged them to come to the forefront of society. He said that the enslavement of women was a manifestation of male arrogance. Swamikal promoted vegetarianism and professed non-violence (Ahimsa). He strongly opposed Christian missionary activities and criticized Christianity through his scholarly work ‘Kristumata Chedanam’(“Refutation of Christian religion”). He authored several other books on Religion, Spirituality and the history of language.
Chattampi Swamikal was known by different names throughout his intellectually and spiritually enriched life. The swami’s original name was Ayyappan, although he was called Kunjan Pillai and later Shanmukhadasan.
The Swami’s father was Vasudeva Sharma, a Namboothiri, from Mavelikkara and mother Nangamma lady from Kollur, a suburban village of Trivandrum in southern Travancore.In childhood his name was Ayyappanpilla/Kunjanpilla
He joined the traditional school conducted by Pettayil Raman Pillai Asan, a renowned scholar and writer. It was there that he earned the name Chattampi on account of his assignment as the monitor of the class. The young Kunjan Pillai was introduced into the science of yoga by the guru Thykattu Ayyavu whom he met at the Gurukulam. Kunjan Pillai was also called Shanmukhadasan due to his deep devotion of Lord Subramanya.
It is said that in his youth Kunjan Pillai took to manual labour as a brick worker and later worked as a document writer in Neyyattinkara town, near Thiruvananthapuram.
After becoming a saint, Swamikal had the luck to get the darshan of Chettikulangara Devi, when he was at Mavelikkara.
Soul mate of Sree Narayana Guru
It was in 1882 at the Aniyoor Temple near Vamanapuram that Chattampi Swami first met the young Nanu Asan. By then Kunjan Pillai was well versed in yoga and spiritual matters and their meeting proved to be the start of a profound and cherished companionship, although the two were of different temperaments. In those days Nanu Asan was a soft-spoken introvert while Kunjan Pillai an outspoken extrovert. Swamikal took Nanu Asan, who was in search of a mentor, to his guru Thykkattu Ayyavu.
Later Nanu Asan and Chattampi Swamikal travelled together to many places in quest of truth and spiritual knowledge. It was with Chattampi Swamikal that Narayana Guru made his first trip to Aruvippuram, which was chosen as Narayana Guru’s abode for meditation and spiritual activities. Chattampi Swamikal, however, did not stay there for long, although the two maintained their contacts, respect and regard for each other.
Chattampi Swamikal has got many disciples Grihastha disciples like Bodheswaran, Perunnelli Krsihnan Vaidhyan, Velutheri Kesavan Vaidhyan etc. as well Sanyasi dsciples like Narayana Guru, Neelakanta Therthapada and Theerthapad Parmahamsa who played very important role in renaissance and reformation in Kerala.
Toward the end of his life Swamikal settled down at Panmana, a village in Kollam district. After prolonged illness, Swamikal attained Maha Samadhi on May 5, 1924. His mortal remains were enshrined at his Samadhistanam at Panmana. This site is today called Panmana Ashramam, which is a centre for social service and spiritual practices.
Teachings of Chattampi Swamikal
- Avoid boastful thoughts about your physical achievements and material accumulations. Contemplate over the ultimate reality of existence. That alone will give meaning to life
- The whole universe is the manifestation of the one. The apparent differences between different objects are only an illusion. An understanding of this truth will lead to liberation and salvation
- This universe is the manifestation of but one mind. Alienation between one mind and another mind is unnatural. The mind of man is in no way different from the mind of any other creature
- Enslavement of woman is a manifestation of male arrogance. It is against all canons of justice and ethics. It is criminal, immoral
Works of Chattampi Swamikal
Swami led a wandering life and left what he wrote with those who were with him at the time of writing. There was no later attempts to collect and conserve them which led to their gradual loss. A few works that got unearthed and published eight decades after his death and inspiring serious discussion show the value and the extent of the loss that occurred to Kerala society which was at one time unmindful of preserving his works. Recently Centre for South Indian Studies has initated Chattampi Swami Digital Archive (CSDA) project as an attempt to collect and collate documents related to Swami that still exist.
Major works of Swami available in print are:
Advaita Chinta Paddhati
Keralathile Desa Namangal
Devarcha Paddhatiyude Upodghatam
Devi Manasa Puja Stotra Vyakhyanam
Nijananda Vilasam (published by Narayana Gurukulam, Srinivasapuram, Varkala)
Pranavavum Sankhya Darsanavum
Prapanchathil Stri Purushanmarkkulla Sthanam
Pracheena Malayalam (published by Kurukshethra Prakasan, Kaloor, Cochin)
Pracheena Malayalam Part II ( A hundred year old manuscript discovered recently by Vaikkam vivekanandan, published by Centre for South Indian Studies)
Bhasha Padma Puranam
Malayalathile Chila Sthala Namangal
Vedadhikara Niroopanam (published by Kurukshethra Prakasan, Kaloor, Cochin)
Chila Kavit Sakalangal
The following works are not Available, but are mentioned in “Life and Works of Chattampi Swamikal” (Chattampi Swamikal: Jivitavum Kritikalum), Dr. K. Maheshwaran Nair, page 87, 2nd edition, 1995, published by Dooma Books, Trivandrum)
Tarka Rahasya Ratnam
Parama Bhattara Darsanam
Moksha Pradipa Khandanam
Sarva Mata Samarasyam
Stava Ratna Haravali